Bagni Di Lucca Arts Festival

September 14, 2013 § 8 Comments

An old painting of Ponte a Serraglio

An old painting of Ponte a Serraglio

The streets of Ponte a Serraglio, all summer long, have been filled with the sound of music, of people wandering hand in hand through the old shops filled with art, hosted by wonderful characters, artists of delightful eccentricity.  Performances of music, of theatre, of sculpture installations on the river, of acrobats and dancers, of singing, of instrumentation, of bands of astounding quality enticing us to dance to their beat….

Opening of the Art Festival

Opening of the Art Festival

The streets of Ponte a Serraglio during the Art Festival

The streets of Ponte a Serraglio during the Art Festival

It has been an amazing work of art for all this to happen.  It has been in the hands of a few people incredibly loyal to the vision, and the credit goes to Jaqui Varela and Jacob Cartwright for keeping the vision and inspiring their little group of tireless workers.  Jacob and Jaqui have devoted themselves without pay and almost every minute of their spare time to organizing the shops and events and procuring interminable permissions from the Belle Arti and the commune.   Even so, they and all the festival workers have also been thoroughly appreciated by us all.  This first year of the Bagni di Lucca Festival has already been a resounding success.  The goal to bring life back to this sleeping gracious old town has begun.

Jaqui and Jake

Jaqui and Jake

One of the many highlights of the festival has been Neco Novellas in the old casino and also in ‘La Cantina’.  African, from Mozambique, Neco lives now in Amsterdam.  As well as his training from his own culture he has been classically trained in voice in Europe.  He is such a honed self disciplined man, all this showing in his professionalism that in a different field of music and without all that consummate experience, was yet, worthy company to the piano performance the night before by Ronald Farren-Price.  This was one of those amazing times when voice is truly an instrument, it was its own percussion resounding from his chest and cheeks, his tongue clicking and clocking, his voice golden and rich, the words hardly important to the largeness of his sound that completely filled you.  One of the nights after the concert in the casino, he had a wonderful public  jam with Jacob.   Although Jake would call himself a composer number one, he is actually a beautiful improvisor on the clarinet. He has been playing since he was nine and was considered so gifted he was ensconced in the Victorian College of the Arts secondary school in Australia for Music from the age of eleven.  He was in joy playing with Neco.   It was a wonderful couple of nights.

Neco - photo taken by Petra Boschart

Neco – photo taken by Petra Boshart

Another worthy mention, even though there are many, was the sculpture installation, ‘Fragile Community’, by Sandro di Pistoia on the river under the bridge in Ponte a Serraglio.  It happened without fanfare and took people by surprise.  It evolved with planks of wood and big rubber bands, floating in the water joined at their ends into hexagonal cells.  It was the subject of endless photographs, reflections of the buildings and bridge up above captured in its many frames.  People sat in Vinicio’s outdoor restaurant along the riverside peering down on it.  It also captured the rubbish, occasionally revealing the practices of people upstream chucking in their plastic bags of debris, also scum from ancient sewerage systems or from factories along the river, and sometimes a carcass would float down, bloated and distorted to wait patiently there under the bridge held at bay by the planks of wood until it was released to go by.  Hmmm yes, a fragile community revealed.

"Fragile community' by Sandro di Pistoiese

“Fragile community’ by Sandro di Pistoia

A couple of weeks ago the Festival put on a performance by Triad in the Villa Fiori Gardens.  It was a wonderful night.  I think we danced till we dropped.  The music was essentially tribal, the overriding sound coming from the didgeridoo and drums with some electronica thrown in.  Loved it. Loved the deep repetitive beat and that deep sound of the land in the didgeridoo, stamp stamping in the dust, arms chugging, everyone in there, young and old, the music too universal to be held by one.

Triad

Triad

Then, the other night we had Koski.  Wow.  It blew us away, Henna Kaikula, Guy Dowsett,  Jacob Cartwright and Julian Renlong Wong.  It was contemporary dance, music, theatre.  To me, it was a dreamy description of the soul’s journey, symbolic snippets choreographed into the chain of water sound and drum beat.  It was the rhythm of life, necessary for survival, it was birth, it was nurturing and whimsy, it was greed, it was a childlike yearning for something beyond reach and it was the dance of life’s exhaustion, the relentless hammering of time against a mere body.  Koski was workshopped in La Cantina, a large space, that the four artists used for a month, Jacob and Guy working through the nights to create the music and sound scape, Henna the contortionist using her body in effortless and graceful abandon, Julian, controlled and exquisite, a dancer, combining to create in the space with its rocks and stones and river noise and high windows, theatre so riveting, I didn’t move a muscle from beginning to end.  I felt reverent and I know others did too.  There was very little space for an audience, the cantina only holding enough small chairs for 27 people, surrounded by the set of the performance.  And there were only three nights of performance, so we felt lucky to have seen it!

Henna Kailkuna and Photo by Illaria Sabatini

Henna Kaikula and Julian Renlong Wong Photo by Ilaria Sabbatini

Finally, although there are still exhibitions happening in the shops it feels like the end of the festival was marked by the theatrical performance on 6th September, Comedia Toto, directed by Ira Seidenstein in Bagni di Lucca’s old theatre.  Before this inaugural night he workshopped the performance for two weeks in Ponte a Serraglio in the the old Cinema House with a talented group of young performers, acrobats, clowns, comedians.  Each actor took on the personage of major comedians or comedy roles like Toto and Pierrot and created small acts held together by the main female character whose larger than life ego reluctantly introduced them and shooed them away as quickly as possible.  The little snippets were delightful but by the end we were really laughing with their almost slapstick antics.  It was lovely to have the grand old theatre to use.  It is one of the oldest theatre houses in Italy.  It was badly refurbished in 1987, (oh the 80’s) because its roof was leaking and for the first time it was ‘modernized’, sadly, but it is still a wonderful venue.

THE COMMEDIA TOTO GANG

THE COMMEDIA TOTO GANG

Now it is autumn and the rains have begun, cooling down the earth, and even when the sun is shining and it almost feels like summer, the shadows are cooler now.  It has been a summer to remember in this little town nestling on the river’s edge.  We are deeply grateful to all the artists who participated and made such wonderful cultural and artistic contributions to the festival.  We believe there were over 60 participating artists although  some names have been lost within their group name.  They are as follows:

Sculpture Symposium

DOUGLA ROBINSON Canada

MICHAEL CARTWRIGHT Australia

PETRA BOSHART Holland

RYOICHI SUZUKI USA/Japan

SARAH DANAYS UK

Artist in Galleries

TONY SCOTT Australia

WAYNE WARREN UK

LAI CHUN LING HK China

MICHAEL HENNING Germany

SELBY HICKE New York

DAVID FINKBEINER New York

GIUSEPPE DEL DEBBIO Lucca

GIANMARCO CASELLI Lucca

JACOPO DA SAN MARTINO Lucca

CHRISTIAN GIRONDA Italy

BANG ON! GROUP Tuscany

MELISSA MOORE England

SANDRA MONTAGNA Pietrasanta

DORA BENDIXEN Norway

DARIO TORRE – BANG ON! GROUP Tuscany

LINDA SCHRANK New York

SHONA NUNAN Australia

MARCANTONIO LUNARDI Lucca

ELISABETTA DI SOPRA Venice

3D NEIGHBOURS Barcelona

SARAH DANAYS UK

ORNELLITUDINE Viareggio

SANDRO DEL PISTOIA Pietrasanta

FILIPPO GEMIGNANI Italy

KERTIN PERSSON

GABO CAMNITZER

JENNY PERLIN

GIONI DAVID PARRA Tuscany

CAROL NEWMARCH UK

KATHLEEN DUNNE

MICHAEL CARTWRIGHT  Australia

MAURIZIO FRUZZETTI

BANG ON! GROUP Tuscany

PAULYR BUHLER Switzerland

MAUREEN HALSON England

DOUGLAS ROBINSON Canada

SAMUEL GIRAFFI

BANG ON! GROUP Tuscany

RICHARD MOQUIN United States

BEATRICE SPERANZA Italy

EMY PETRINI Italy

GIACOMO VERDE Tuscany

MAX CAFFELL England

ANTONIETTA CAPECCHI Italy

GIULIA GERACE Italy

KEVAN HALSON England

JACOB CARTWRIGHT Australia

PERFORMANCES

RONALD FARREN-PRICE  Australia

NECO NOVELLAS Mozambique

Filarmonica Municipale La Crisi

“LABIRINTO SONORO” Italy

KOSKI  Henna Kaikula – Finland, Julian Renlong Wong – Australia, Jacob Cartwright – Australia, Guy Dowsett – Australia

TRIAD VIBRATIONS Italy

COMMEDIA TOTO – Ira Seiderstein – Australia/America, Casper Schjelbred – Denmark, Kevin Gorczynsko – Holland, Anne Chaponnay – France, Olivier Pasquier – France, Elena Michielin – Italy, Danica Hilton – Australia, Marion lallour – France.

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